Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Toys for Tots

Ah, if only I knew Japanese, as I would love to have (or give as a gift to the niece--it's even odds at this point) a stuffed Anomalocaris.
For those not in the know, Anomalocaris is one of the extinct creatures whose fossils were found in the Burgess Shale in 1909 (but the fossils were reexamined in the 1980s, leading to our current understanding of these critters). Anomalocaris was part of the Cambrian explosion, or massive diversification of creatures--mostly early arthopods--that took place starting around 580 million years ago. The discovery of these fossils and a look at the bizarre organisms that left them are the subjects of Stephen Jay Gould's excellent 1990 book Wonderful Life, one of my favorite books of all time.

How about a stuffed Hallucigenia or Wiwaxia? I think a whole set of plushie Burgess Shale creatures is in order.

Then again, flipping through Wonderful Life, which I haven't read in years, while writing this post, I swear I saw some of these creatures in my bathroom the other night. Maybe I should have held off on the Raid.

Death of Cinema

Jeepers--great Italian film director Michaelangelo Antonioni has died on the same day as great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.

Sorry, Mike, my DVD player is still backlogged with Bergman films right now. You'll have to wait until next week for your retrospective....

Guess it's a good thing Kurosawa and Fellini are already dead. Hmm... Anyone heard from Jean-Luc Godard lately?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Walk This Way

I like to walk. Always have. There's nothing I hate more than having to drive places. Aside from a couple of junkers I had in high school, I didn't even really own a car until I was 30 (the old joke being that no one in New York City has a car because there's too much traffic), and even when I lived in L.A. (Torrance, actually), it was surprisingly pedestrian-friendly (aside from the time the carload of nuns ran a red left-turn arrow and almost ran me over--how I wish I were making that up!) and I did walk most places I needed to go.

Unfortunately, living out here in the 'burbs of Upstate New York means that walking is next to impossible. And it's not even that things are especially distant (my range is about 2.5-3.0 miles); it's that there are no sidewalks, crosswalks, walk/don't walk signs, or anything that would make surburban walking even remotely convenient. Downtown would be doable on foot--if it were physically possible to get from Point A to Point B without caroming off someone's hood and ending up in a bloody heap in Point C. Because, let's face it, people drive like idiots. (For proof, just wait at the bus stop in downtown Saratoga and watch the carnage.)

Lots of folks are in the same boat--and here is an interesting site called WalkScore that rates the walkability to a variety of nearby attractions or businesses from a given address. As I would expect, my address yielded a 31 out of 100. There are some interesting things from the list of nearby attractions. The first is that Reel Meals (a dinner-and-a-movie place that was pretty unsatisfactory for either) is out of business, and I've never heard of Excellent Adventure bookstore. And why Espey Manufacturing is listed under "Library" is beyond me.

On a related note, I was very happy that the CDTA (Capital District Transportation Authority) expanded its bus service to downtown Saratoga from near where I live. The nearest bus stop, as it turns out, is a scant 0.8 miles from my house, the fare is $1, and it runs every hour. I have taken it several times (the service started in early July) and it's a great way to get into Saratoga without having to drive around forever looking for non-existent parking--especially now that the racetrack is open, traffic is insanity, and the last vestiges of civilization have disappeared from this town. It also means I can save on gas, and not have to order Diet Pepsi in a bar--added bonuses.

Waiting at the bus stop is interesting, though; people driving by--literally to a man or woman (aside from those on cellphones who are oblivious to anything anyway)--look at me as if I had had Rosey Grier and Ray Milland heads grafted on. Is the idea of public transort so foreign to hardcore suburbanites? All I can say is, "Tough." And, heck, I'd rather spend money on beer than gas any day.


No smiles this summer night...
Master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, one of the greatest artists in cinema history, died today at his home on an island off the coast of Sweden. He was 89.

Bergman's dozens of works combined deep seriousness, indelible imagery and unexpected flashes of humor in finely written, inventively shot explorations of difficult subjects such as plague and madness.

Watching the Dark

Derek L., the Saratoga Film Forum's illustrious managing director (and the hardest working man in show business), told me about a British comedy series called Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, saying it "was right up my alley." (People are always tellng me things like this, and all I can say is I'm not sure I want to be in that alley alone at night. Or during the day, for that matter.)

Anyway, the program(me) aired a few years ago on the UK's Channel 4, and all six episodes are available online here (or on DVD, but Region 2 only--doh!).

The premise of the show is this: It's a mock retrospective hosted by (fictional) horror writer/egomaniac Garth Marenghi, who is hung up on his own purported genius. ("My books are essentially 'what ifs.' In my book 'Black Fang,' what if a rat could drive a bus? And what if it and its rat brethren took over and ate Parliament?")

He introduces the "reairing" of a (fictional) horror show he wrote, produced, and starred in in the 1980s set in a haunted hospital. He and other cast and crewmembers reminisce about the show--oblivious to the fact the show was staggeringly bad. The acting is atrocious, the dialogue is badly written, the overdubbing is horrible, and the special effects make Mystery Science Theater 3000 look like the last Star Wars movie. The thing is, though, it so accurately captures the feel of 1980s television, from the sets, to the hair, to the cheeseball music, to...everything. It is two parts Twilight Zone, three parts Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one part ER, and five parts The A Team. (Yes, I am aware that only one of those shows was actually from the 1980s.) It is absolutely hysterical. Episode Two is pure art.

Sadly, only the first three episodes on Google Video were digitized from the original Channel 4 broadcasts; the last three episodes were from a SciFi Channel broadcast--meaning the occasional bad language was bleeped and two minutes were cut out to make room for crappy commercials for shite I wouldn't want to buy anyway. Oh, and of course, the bit of the show that runs under the end credits was squished and rendered invisible so they could promote other crappy SciFi Channel shows. (Basically all the things that make American television really annoying.) I gotta find a hack for Region 2 DVDs...
"The Lord moves in mysterious ways...sometimes he comes in at an angle, or just hovers."

"I ran the only way I knew how...by putting one leg in front of the other in rapid succession."

"Often the shows were at least three minutes short, so any scene that didn't have dialogue was run in slow motion."

"Understood?" "As crystal."
It's pure brilliance.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Memo to Myself

Do the dumb things I gotta do

Touch the puppet head.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cat Scratch Fever

Do you have a cat? Do you think it has too much dignity? Do you wish to psychologically torture your cat? Well, then, the folks at Hello Kitty have got just the thing--bib, collar, and carrying bag to abase and humilate your poor kitty.
If I remember the cats I had when I lived at home, it wouldn't be so much "Hello Kitty" as "Hello Flesh Wounds."

With Six You Get Maalox

From Japan, oddly enough, comes what I would initially think of as the quintessential--and most revolting--American meal:
Pizza Hut Japan's exclusive Double Roll pie is 646 calories per slice, with little bacon wrapped sausages littered across the crust, and mini hamburger patties on top of the mushrooms, soy beans, corn, paprika, garlic chips, green peppers, and pepperoni. As for cheese, it has mozzarella, cheddar and parmigiana. BTW, this comes with ketchup and maple syrup for extra flavor, and is recommended for kids.
Well, recommended, I suppose, for kids you don't particularly like. (It's the "bacon-wrapped sausages" that make it art.) I think the only thing more appetizing would be a big stick of deep-fried butter, or perhaps a personal feeding trough containing the entire contents of a Las Vegas hotel buffet.

Up in Arms

Via Pharyngula, a sacrilege, to be sure: Octopus Faith, or using an octopus as a metaphor for religious faith. As an octopus fancier, I am deeply offended. Now, if it had been the actual deification of an octopus, I could go for that.

Two things strike me about that site: a) octopuses do not have tentacles, they have arms, and b) that woman looks like a deranged Chuckie.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Acorny Joke?

This can't possibly be true. Says the Iranian newspaper Resalat, via the BBC, via the Washington Post):
"A few weeks ago, 14 squirrels equipped with espionage systems of foreign intelligence services were captured by [Iranian] intelligence forces along the country's borders. These trained squirrels, each of which weighed just over 700 grams, were released on the borders of the country for intelligence and espionage purposes. According to the announcement made by Iranian intelligence officials, alert police officials caught these squirrels before they could carry out any task."
There wasn't a moose accompanying any of those squirrels, was there?

How on earth do you train a squirrel? They can't even figure out not to dart out in front of moving cars.

Then again, when I lived in my first apartment in Saratoga, the phone abruptly went out one day and Verizon came and told me that a squirrel had bitten through the outside phone line. So maybe we shouldn't underestimate the power of the squirrel! Or Verizon should stop using acorn-flavored cable insulation. I was also told that they occasionally bite through electrical wires, too. Not very bright; but I do keep a row of barbecue grills lined up beneath my electrical wires, just in case. Here's a serving hint for fricasseed squirrel--leaving the tail on makes for an attractive presentation.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ice Ice Baby

Are you frail and waiflike? Is putting your hand in a cooler full of ice akin to putting it in a big urn of liquid nitrogen? Now you can ensure that your oh-so-delicate fingers do not freeze and snap off with the silly Arctic Net Cooler Scoop.

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

I bet you this octopus won't even get a cut of the loot, or even an academic position:
The extraordinary discovery on what was for 58-year-old Mr Kim another 'day at the office' began when he took his small boat out from the town of Taean, 60 miles south west of Seoul. As usual, he was hoping for a good catch of webfoot octopus, which are a delicacy in Korea.
Casting out a long line, he felt a familiar tug and hauled up his first octopus of the day. He was puzzled by several blue objects attached to its suckers and thought at first they were shells.

But when he examined them, he realised they were pieces of pottery. Not realising he was on the point of making an incredible discovery, he cast out his line again and again, bringing in more octopus with shards of pottery attached.

Then he brought one up with a whole plate caught on its tentacles.

By now, Mr Kim realised that there had to be something important deep below. He had heard that divers had found several shipwrecks filled with relics, including ancient pottery, along the coast.
'We arranged for an urgent exploration of the sea bed and although we did not find a ship down there, we were able to find 30 12th century bowls.

'It seems that a ship carrying Koryo pottery was wrecked there and what excites us is that these pieces are perfect examples of beautiful Koryo pottery. A large number of kilns were established in the area and the ship must have been transporting the pieces when it went down.

'Although other ships have been found and pottery recovered, this is the first time a family of octopus have found a wreck for us.'
[T]he chance discovery is being hailed as one of the great undersea treasure discoveries of modern times.

Bat Boy, R.I.P.

Ah, truly a sad moment: an American institution is shutting its doors:
Weekly World News Shutting Down

While it isn't strictly a genre publication, and it does bill itself as "The World's Only Reliable Newspaper," the editor has decided that this announcement does fall within SFScope's purview:

American Media has decided to suspend publication of Weekly World News, both the print publication and the web site. No reason was given at press time, although reliable sources do tell us that management turned down at least one offer to buy the publication.

The weekly supermarket tabloid—known as the home of "Bat Boy" and other less-than-probable stories—has long had staffing connections with the science fiction, fantasy, and horror fields.
Ah, going to the supermarket will never be the same! After all, the Weekly World News was Photoshopping pictures long before there was a Photoshop. The 1990 cover with George Bush walking with the space alien was priceless.

I always liked WWN columnist Ed Anger, who was always incoherently "pig-biting mad" about something, usually liberals. I guess in this age of talk radio and Fox News, poor Ed just can't compete. (Good for the pigs, I guess.)

There was, believe it or not, a Weekly World News TV show for a very short period of time in the late 1990s (I think). It had potential, but could not live up to the print edition.


A new They Might Be Giants album is always a reason to celebrate, and The Else, which came out two weeks ago, has scarcely left my iPod/CD player.

I first discovered They in 1986, when a high school friend of mine bought their debut album (on vinyl), hated it, and gave it to me. I confess, it was about a year before I actually listened to it, and when I did it was only because I was in a friend's car in Syracuse and there was this cool song on the tape deck with the line "All the people are so happy now/They're heads are caving in." I asked what it was, was told it was They Might Be Giants, and realized to my slight embarrassment that I actually owned it. Naturally, when I got back to the apartment, I dug out the record, put it on, and discovered, hey!, I really liked it.

Their second album Lincoln came out in 1988--which I picked up on vinyl, as well--and I thought it a disappointment at the time, but liked a lot on it.

So I have followed Their career eagerly ever since. They were based in Brooklyn, so when I lived in NYC there were many opportunities to see Them live, and They often did free concerts in Central Park or Prospect Park, so I saw Them a half dozen or so times between 1990 and 1996. I last saw Them live in 1998 when They played at the House of Blues in West Hollywood.

They intially started out as just two guys named John--a guitarist and an accordionist/keyboardist/tuba-ist, etc.--who played to a drum machine (an early song was called "Rhythm Section Want Ad"). They also had the ability to absorb, replicate, and mutate a bewildering variety of musical styles, extremely odd instrumentation (friends of mine and I used to si around listening to their records and playing "name that instrument"), and clever, surreal, and downright funny lyrics. One very early song was based on an odd hyphenation one of them discovered on the back of a Bob Dylan album, and thus was born the saga of Mr. Tambo and Urine Man. That's the kind of thing They do.

In 1994, they added an actual backing band, which cut down on the idiosyncrasy a bit, but they have gradually learned how to combine the best aspects of working with an organic, live band and the "musical pop culture in a blender" approach of their earlier material.

My favorite TMBG track? A song called "I Can Hear You," recorded at the Edison Laboratory on an original wax cylinder, and is a litany of modern communications devices (airplane phones, apartment intercoms, fast food drive-through windows, etc.) that sound no better than Edison wax cylinders (it was recorded before thw advent of the cellphone). Absolutely brilliant. It's on 1996's Factory Showroom if you want to find it.

I sort of lost track of Them for a while as they delved into making children's records (which, as it turns out, aren't that far removed from their proper albums).

The Else is their first "real" album since 2004's somewhat disappointing The Spine, but it is a better record. It starts off slow (the first few tracks are a tad dull), but the album gets better as it goes on and gets stranger. "The Shadow Government" marks the beginning of the good stuff, and the convoluted wordplay and odd instrumentation of "Bee of the Bird of the Moth" is classic TMBG. By the time "The Mesopotamians" comes on (with its singalong chorus of "Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh!") you're with them all the way. (These are also the same guys who wrote a song documenting the James K. Polk administration, a celebration of Belgium's famous painter James Ensor ("he lived with his mother and the torments of Christ"), a catchy scientific treatise about mammals, a a botany lesson all about conifers.

Anyway, the best of the new album is the bonus disc of podcasts (a 21st century version of their old Dial-a-Song answering machine service), which contains the weirder (and better) stuff. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Hunting (and Gathering) of the Snark

This is one of those lines that that just cry out for a snarky, sarcastic comment:
Domino's Pizza credited its investment in IT for significant sales and profit gains for the first half of 2007.
That must be the explanation, because it certainly isn't their pizza, which is pretty inedible.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Giant Sun

It's the weekend, and before you go frolic in the sun, here are They Might Be Giants singing about the sun, performing their rendition of the 1950s science class favorite "Why Does the Sun Shine?" taped, appropriately enough, at Mohegan Sun in July 2006.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Oh, Too!

The Angry Toxicologist (an informative new science blog I found) takes on one of the silliest products one could ever market:
The POD, or Personal Oxygen Device, by GO2, is simply that: portable oxygen for you to "energize" and "refresh, restore, renew your mind and body on the cellular level with oxygen". Ooooo...cellular. Sounds scientificy, let's get it!
First I have to note that if your body is short on oxygen, you'll simply breathe harder.
However, as I have probably discussed on this blog before, breathing oxygen in excess of what we normally breathe in the air is really quite harmful. Why? Well, one more time for the world:
Oxygen is reactive, our bodies exploit this aspect by having O2 accept the energy that we use to keep our bodies going (that's a really broad definition of why we need oxygen). However, this reactivity can have unintended consequences; for one, oxidation is the main reason our bodies age (oxidation is also why iron turns to rust). This is the reason that anti-aging creams try to pack in the anti-oxidants.

Too much oxygen in the lungs can really damage the tissue with its reactivity. Researchers started measuring the damage a couple years ago by looking at isofurans, a chemical that signals that the cell walls are being damaged by oxidation.

When this damage occurs, the lungs heal themselves, but that's exactly where the problem occurs, because the lungs are a really flexible and permeable tissue. Scar tissue isn't. So eventually, the scar tissue builds up and it's not only harder to breathe, but less air gets across the lung surface to the blood and vice versa. As you can imagine, asthmatics and smokers will feel this first.
So there! Marketers attempting to sell the health benefits of pure oxygen are just spouting so much hot air.

I, Robot

Via Pharyngula, a self-test to discover one's personality defects. Oh, the irony; I was hoping for "haughty intellectual."

Your Score: Robot

You are 100% Rational, 0% Extroverted, 14% Brutal, and 42% Arrogant.

You are the Robot! You are characterized by your rationality. In fact, this is really ALL you are characterized by. Like a cold, heartless machine, you are so logical and unemotional that you scarcely seem human. For instance, you are very humble and don't bother thinking of your own interests, you are very gentle and lack emotion, and you are also very introverted and introspective. You may have noticed that these traits are just as applicable to your laptop as they are to a human being. You are not like the robots they show in the movies. Movie robots are make-believe, because they always get all personable and likeable after being struck by lightning, or they are cold, cruel killing machines. In all reality, though, you are much more boring than all that. Real robots just sit there, doing their stupid jobs, and doing little else. If you get struck by lightning, you won't develop a winning personality and heart of gold. (Robots don't have hearts, silly, and if they did, they would probably be made of steel, not gold.) You also won't be likely to terrorize humanity by becoming an ultra-violent killing machine sent into the past to kill the mother of a child who will lead a rebellion against machines, because that movie was dumb as hell, and because real robots don't kill--they horribly maim at best, and they don't even do that on purpose. Real robots are boringly kind and all too rarely try to kill people. In all my years, my laptop has only attacked me once, and that was only because my brother threw it at me. In short, your personality defect is that you don't really HAVE a personality. You are one of those annoying, super-logical people that never gets upset or flustered. Unless, of course, you short circuit. Or if someone throws a pie at you. Pies sure are delicious.

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more RATIONAL than intuitive.

2. You are more INTROVERTED than extroverted.

3. You are more GENTLE than brutal.

4. You are more HUMBLE than arrogant.


Your exact opposite is the Class Clown.

Other personalities you would probably get along with are the Hand-Raiser, the Emo Kid, and the Haughty Intellectual.



If you scored near fifty percent for a certain trait (42%-58%), you could very well go either way. For example, someone with 42% Extroversion is slightly leaning towards being an introvert, but is close enough to being an extrovert to be classified that way as well. Below is a list of the other personality types so that you can determine which other possible categories you may fill if you scored near fifty percent for certain traits.

The other personality types:

The Emo Kid: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Starving Artist: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Bitch-Slap: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Brute: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hippie: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Televangelist: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Schoolyard Bully: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Class Clown: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Robot: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Haughty Intellectual: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Spiteful Loner: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Sociopath: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hand-Raiser: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Braggart: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Capitalist Pig: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Smartass: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

Be sure to take my Sublime Philosophical Crap Test if you are interested in taking a slightly more intellectual test that has just as many insane ramblings as this one does!

About Saint_Gasoline

I am a self-proclaimed pseudo-intellectual who loves dashes. I enjoy science, philosophy, and fart jokes and water balloons, not necessarily in that order. I spend 95% of my time online, and the other 5% of my time in the bathroom, longing to get back on the computer. If, God forbid, you somehow find me amusing instead of crass and annoying, be sure to check out my blog and my webcomic at SaintGasoline.com.

Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Seasoned Greetings

Boy, I must be amazingly popular! The sheer number of notices I have received in the past several weeks telling me that I have received an electronic greeting card has now exceeded the number of people in the world who would actually be likely to send me an electronic greeting card. And who is sending me these notices of joy? Well, no names are given, just:
a School mate
a Partner
a Colleague
a Family member
a Mate
a Class mate
The cards apparently are from real card companies (Hallmark, AmericanGreetings) but closer examination shows that a letter or two is off. That and the fact that neither I nor the sender is specifically named made me more than a little suspicious (as did the fact that I am in touch with only two "school mates" and I can't imagine either of them ever being inclined to send me a greeting card apropos of nothing--or, at all, really).

I did some searching and discovered that this is indeed a hoax, designed to trick you into accessing a site that will load a Trojan horse onto your computer (which was my initial suspicion). More info here. This Greeting Card Hoax first made the rounds in 1999, but seems to have become a little more malicious.

Kind of reminded me of the "I Love You" virus that hit in 2000--my suspicion was immediately raised when I received an e-mail from Cygnus' Senior VP with the subject line "I Love You." Entire books could be written about why that was an incredibly unlikely scenario...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

The dark side of today's ubiquitous gardgetry (assuming there's a bright side) is that we are edging closer to the dystopia presented in the movie Idiocracy. Just when I thiougbt that talking on cellphones was among the dumbest, most sociopathic things humans could do, now I find that apparently the hip-yet-utterly-fucking-moronic new thing to do is text while driving, with, of course, the fairly predictable trail of carnage. What is wrong with people?

The debate now is whether to ban texting while driving. Y'know, what is the point? There reaches a point, even in our overly paternalistic society, where you just have to let natural stupidity take its course. It should be obvious that texting while driving is a dumbass thing to do, but then would be barbecuing a steak while driving, or reading Proust while driving, or assembling a bicycle while driving, or doing jigsaw puzzles while driving, or building bookshelves while driving, or playing volleyball while driving, or solving Schrodinger's wave equation while driving...some things should just be obvious. But, I guess not. Why I take great pains to not drink and drive is beyond me...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Keep the Change?

Bank of America--the bank at which I have my account(s) for reasons passing understanding*--has this program called "Keep the Change," which is pitched at me every time I spend the 20 minutes required to to get money out of their lethargic ATMs. I have never been able to understand why anyone would think it was a good idea. And it seems that I am not the only one. Over at Marginal Revolution, economist Alex Tabarrok writes:
The Bank of America's Keep the Change program freaks me out. Every time you make a charge with your B of A debit card it rounds the figure up to the nearest whole amount and transfers the change to your checking account. Commercials for this service are all over the television and radio - tagline: "you don't even have to think about saving" - and every time I see one I feel the gulf between me and the rest of humanity widening (MR readers excepted of course).

Look, I can understand Ulysses tying himself to the mast, I can understand locking the refrigerator and I can understand Christmas accounts but I will never understand how anyone can increase their savings by taking money from one account and putting it into another. I think I will write a book, I will call it Mental Accounting for Dummies:

The secret to saving more money is simple. In your right hand is money for spending. In your left hand is money for savings. Now take some money from your right hand and put it into your left hand. Tada! Wasn't that easy?
Consumer Reports also had a pretty thorough debunking of the program some time ago, as well.

It wouldn't work for me anyway because I adamantly refuse to use a debit card.

*Actually, I remain there because after seven years the managers and tellers all know me, which makes the rare special request so much easier to ask for and be granted.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tasmanian Devil

Why can't I ever stumble across these things when out for a walk on the beach?
A giant squid washed up on the shores of Tasmania has scientists in a frenzy.
They will take samples from the massive creature, which has been identified by Tasmania Parks and Wildlife as giant squid Architeuthis.
The hood of the squid is about two metres long and the body a couple of metres long.

A TPWS spokesman said the tentacles have been badly mangled so their length could not be measured.
A member of the public made the discovery last night.


The Onion is on top of things with a new magazine launch:
New Pompous Asshole Magazine To Compete With Cigar Aficionado

NEW YORK—Upscale consumers who enjoy cigars, wine, and "all the finer things in life" will have a new magazine to enjoy beginning next month when Pompous Asshole hits the stands. Targeted at the 23- to 60-year-old pompous-asshole demographic, the new monthly magazine is expected to compete directly with Cigar Aficionado for advertising dollars. "Pompous Asshole is the magazine of the good life," said publisher Paul Westman, "And, unlike Cigar Aficionado, we truly cover it all: From tips on choosing the right humidor to advice on where to gamble in Monte Carlo to the lowdown on the new Jaguar XJ8, Pompous Asshole is the magazine no rich prick can afford to be without."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

More Walkies

Yesterday, the Two Rivers group and I went for a hike up Bash Bish Falls near Taconic State Park, in the "three corners" area (where New York, Masschusetts, and Connecticut meet). It was billed as an easy hike to the falls, then a "slightly" more arduous trek up the falls (or, more properly, up the side of the falls). At the bottom is a bulletin board containing a half dozen or so news stories of people who have died while hiking there--typically by ignoring the "do not go beyond this point" signs or doing similarly dumb things. (My recurring question was whether the name "Bash Bish" came from the sound of hikers caroming off rocks.)
Anyway, the extremely steep ascent was quite arduous indeed; fortunately, there is a metal handrail you can use to help hoist yourself up (would installing an escalator chairlift kill them?). We lunched on a small plateau midway up the falls, which I thought was part of the legal trail but actually wasn't so we got chased off by a park ranger. The view from the top was quite spectacular, and the very steep descent even more challenging than the ascent, IMO, thanks to the, um, gravity of the situation. Happily, the six of us made it up and down none the worse for wear--a few bruises and cuts and some aching muscles, but that's about it. Still, it was a great deal of fun.
I think it's time to invest in a good pair of hiking boots....

Friday, July 06, 2007

Aloha, "Octosquid"

This is cool:
Scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa will soon have a chance to investigate a creature that appears to be half squid, half octopus that was found in waters off the Big Island.

It appears that the creature was sucked up in a deep seawater pipeline at the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority at Keahole on the Big Island.
The pipeline pumps cold water up from 3,000 feet below sea level. Occasionally deep-sea marine life will get caught in a filter in the line, officials said.

Workers call the latest find an "octosquid." It has the body of a squid and the tentacles of an octopus.
This isn't entirely unheard of; marine biologists have already found Taningia danae, an eight-armed deep sea squid.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cold Calling

If you're eager to get out of your wireless contrat (and, quite frankly, who wouldn't be?), Sprint makes it easy: just call customer service too much:
A Sprint customer, whose personal information has been obscured in this image, recently received this letter from Sprint Nextel saying that his contract would be canceled because Sprint believed he had contacted customer service too much. Other subscribers received similar alerts.

Cutting Remarks

You know, not all economic news has to be depressing. If you're in the market for a machete and are worried about overpaying for one, you're in luck:
The price of machetes has halved in parts of Nigeria since the end of general elections in April because demand from thugs sponsored by politicians has subsided, the state-owned News Agency of Nigeria reported.

NAN surveyed prices in the northeastern state of Gombe and found that a good quality machete was now selling for 400 naira ($3) compared with 800 naira before the elections, which were marred by politically motivated violence in many states.
It's common to overlook the "hired thug" factor when analyzing economic data.

Electile Dysfunction

It's safe to say that politics is the entertainment branch of government, and nothing is more purportedly entertaining than Presidential election campaigns. So I say, let's make 'em more entertaining, by giving this list of dark horse candidates a chance on the national stage. I mean, come on, does not this sound like appealing commander-in-chief, if only for the kicky robe:
Jonathon Albert "The Impaler" Sharkey — 43, Satanist/pagan who is the founder, national chair and commanding general in the 1st Vampyre, Witches, Pagans Party Regiment (2006-present); former U.S. Army soldier; former board member of Hillborough, New Jersey's County Executive Republican Committee; dark priest/ advisor to the Church of the Followers of Lucifer; founder and national chair of Vampyres, Witches, Pagans Against Impaired Driving (2005-present). As an ordained Satanic dark priest, vows to perform same-sex marriages at White House at least once a month and to only impale criminals and terrorists, not law-abiding American citizens.
Hmm...I dunno, the Hillsborough NJ Executive Republican Committee... Sounds fishy to me.

But having this guy in a debate would be fun:
Gene Amondson — 64, running for the second time for the Prohibition party, Amondson has spent the past 20 years dressing up as the Grim Reaper with a whiskey bottle in one hand and a scythe in the other to preach the ills of liquor. Also a wood carver, oil painter, pie baker, children's book author and professional impersonator of 1900s evangelical anti-booze preacher Billy Sunday.
It would be fun to watch, but I can't get on board with the whole Prohibition thing...

And it's almost hard to believe this guy is single:
Jackson Kirk Grimes — 56, a single pagan with a GED who once portrayed Hitler on "Star Trek," this director of the United Fascist Union (which promotes the economic theories and political ideologies of Benito Mussolini and Saddam Hussein) and two-time presidential candidate promises to abolish paper money and create a global government if elected.
You have to admit, these clowns are not appreciably worse than the usual bozos who run--or who have even been elected.

Airport Insecurity

Oh, this is comforting:
The Albany International Airport supports efforts to improve security, after government inspectors managed to sneak fake bomb parts through an airport checkpoint.
In one test, TSA inspectors hid the components of a fake bomb in carry-on luggage that also had a bottle of water. The TSA screeners at the airport confiscated the water bottle -- passengers cannot carry on more than three ounces -- but missed the bomb.
Well, at least the water bottle didn't get through! Call me cyncial, but I can't help but think that is designed so that passengers are forced to buy the extortionately priced water at the airport convenience stores (assuming bottled water isn't extortionately priced to begin with).

I would have thought that security at smaller, less crowded airports would be more thorough than zooish big airports, but maybe not. Perhaps small airports have a false sense of...security.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


TV Guide has revised its list of the top 30 cult TV shows. Let's see: Nos. 1 (absolutely), 2, 4, 5, 6, especially 7, 9, very much 13, 14, definitely 16, and you betcha 25 are some of my favorite shows...well, ever, and pretty much sum up a large chunk of my DVD library. (What, no Futurama?) As for the rest of the top 10, well, I liked Buffy (I rented all the seasons at various points) but never obsessively. And The Simpsons--well, that goes without saying, although it's been years since I have watched it. Never liked Xena.

London Calling

Buoyed by the success of the Atlanta flight, I have officially booked a flight to London for next month. Blimey! Depending on the willingness of my hosts to indulge an utter dork, I do hope to get a chance to visit Portmeirion Village in Wales, if only to make Vince N. jealous.

Chime and Punishment

I love the "Selling It: Goofs, Glitches, and Gotchas" in the print edition of Consumer Reports. I did like this one offer:
Stun gun...wind chimes...it's a fine line. Actually, having lived next door to people who have had wind chimes, I don't find that the difference is too great. Wind chimes do tend to do more lasting psychological damage, as, on windy days, they gradually drive you to madness. At least a stun gun is quick.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Show of Hands

Last night, I trotted up to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) to see one of my all-time favorite bands in the world--Rush. Scarily, it has been 25 years since I went to my first Rush concert (1982's Exit...Stage Left tour at the now-gone Boston Garden). I saw them three or four more times since--the 1983 Signals tour, probably the 1984 Grace Under Pressure tour, and in 1985 while in college, Ken A., Todd B., Steven H., and Mike K. and I trekked to Binghamton, NY, battling Mike K's increasing psychosis (don't even ask) to catch them on the Power Windows tour. That was actually the last I would really listen to Rush until "rediscovering" them in 1999. They toured again in 2002 and I had caught them at SPAC at the time.

Anyway, they put on a terrific show. They have never been ones to just "phone it in"; they put 100% into every note and it shows. The new album (Snakes and Arrows) is really good and the songs were even better live. The background visuals worked well and there were some funny video clips (Rush have rarely gotten credit for their sense of humor). Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas (actually old school friends of singer/bassist Geddy Lee) appeared in their old SCTV roles of Bob and Doug McKenzie, doing a skit to introduce "The Larger Bowl" (I couldn't tell if it was an old clip or a new one) and a South Park animation had the kids pretending to be Rush and screwing up "Tom Sawyer" (I never liked South Park, but it was pretty funny). The 2002 stage set had included--oddly--three clothes dryers that were never explained, and this time there were three large rotisseries full of chickens. Occasionally, in the middle of a song, someone would come out in an apron and chef's hat and baste them. It tied in tenuously with the introductory video clip, but was just kind of surreal.

The most striking thing about the show was the song selection. Since Rush have never had any real hits to speak of, the band's entire discography has always been fair game--in fact, Rush fans would probably love it if the band picked more obscure album tracks. "Tom Sawyer" and "The Spirit of Radio" are really the only two "must-plays" and everything else is up to what the band feels like playing. In 2002, they had played a lot of tracks from the 1989-1996 period, but this time around, they only played one song from that period, instead favoring the 1980-1981 period. The oldest song was actually my least favorite song from 1976's 2112. The Permanent Waves album was almost played in its entirety. They even did two songs from 1982's Signals--their ill-advised "synth" album whose songs seem to work better in a live setting. I'm certainly not complaining ("Natural Science" is probably my favorite Rush song, even if they did excise a verse, but then it is a 10-minute song), although one misses old concert staples like "The Trees" or "Red Barchetta."

They did two one-hour sets and a 15-minute encore. They had quite a lot of energy for three fifty-somethings--more than I did, as my feet were killing me after having had to stand for three hours. I also discovered that SPAC is a 40-minute walk from my house.

The complete song list played last night (with the album the song is from) was:

Limelight (Moving Pictures, 1981)
Digital Man (Signals, 1982)
Entre Nous (Permanent Waves, 1980)
Mission (Hold Your Fire, 1987)
Free Will (Permanent Waves, 1980)
The Main Monkey Business (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
The Larger Bowl (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
Secret Touch (Vapor Trails, 2002)
Circumstances (Hemispheres, 1978)
Between the Wheels (Grace Under Pressure, 1984)
Dreamline (Roll the Bones, 1991)


Far Cry (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
Workin' Them Angels (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
Armor and Sword (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
Spindrift (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
The Way the Wind Blows (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
Subdivisions (Signals, 1982)
Natural Science (Permanent Waves, 1980)
Witch Hunt (Moving Pictures, 1981)
Malignant Narcissism (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
Neil Peart's Drum Solo
Hope (an Alex lifeson solo acoustic 12-string piece) (Snakes and Arrows, 2007)
Summertime Blues (yes, the Eddie Cochrane song, from Feedback, the band's 2004 30th anniversary EP of cover songs)
The Spirit of Radio (Permanent Waves, 1980)
Tom Sawyer (Moving Pictures, 1981)


One Little Victory (Vapor Trails, 2001)
A Passage to Bangkok (2112, 1976)
YYZ (Moving Pictures, 1981)